Warlander Devblog #5: Warlander's lore - Bad Time Stories
We present to you a collection of short stories that tells a little bit about the past - and give hints about the present and future...
This is the first collection of Bad Time Stories that intends to expand the world, the lore and the characters of Warlander.
First story - Dirt and Honor - also has its audio drama version, which you can listen to - here.
Please note that these stories happen before the events of the game.
Without further ado - enjoy!
1 - DIRT AND HONOR
"Come on, Chieftain! Another one!"
Bruce watched the gathered children across the smoldering remnants of a bonfire. Ivor - the boy who asked for a new story - caught Bruce's eyes and held his gaze.
"The night is old and tomorrow's work doesn't care if we are rested or not. But… I will tell you another tale, little ones!" The children erupted into cries of happiness but they quickly calmed down as Bruce raised his hands and started a new tale.
"Some summers ago, I ventured into the Forest. The moon of Thul was almost upon us and the ancestors demanded a proper sacrifice. With no prey in sight I had to go deeper and deeper among the moss-covered trees. But then! There was a booming sound far above me and I could see a Techno floater through the branches. When my eyes returned upon the path ahead of me, I was already surrounded! Not one, not two, but three Techno Soldiers stood around me! They laughed as they powered their swords. After all, they had caught a stray Clansman armed with nothing but steel.”
“This was their undoing! While they still laughed, I charged the first one and my blade met his belly! The second one was already upon me but a Clan warrior is fast as lighting. His blade whizzed past my head as I ducked and then I sliced his arms clean off. But the third Soldier... He saw I was not a frightened Clansman but a warrior! So, he waited, baiting me to attack him. We circled each other for moments that lasted forever, waiting for the other one to make a mistake. But then! I kicked the ground rising a cloud of dirt that went through his mask blinding him, just for a second! A second was all that I needed. With one mighty strike aimed at his neck I sliced his head off! I swear to the ancestors, he was still coughing as his head tumbled around!"
The end of the story was met with giggles and longing eyes as the bonfire waned and slowly died out. Only Ivor seemed concerned and lost in thought. After a moment, he spoke: "But Chieftain? Where is the honor in tricking the Techno?"
Bruce directed a long, hard stare at Ivor as he answered. "There is no honor in dying, Ivor. A warrior must use every means available to him to be the victor. Always remember that! And now... Time to sleep."
2 - TO BE A WARRIOR
Bruce looked at the faces of the Clan children across the blazing flames. All of them returned the look proudly, their eyes reflecting the dancing flames. Murmuring between themselves, they expected Bruce to begin with tonight's tale, but he was lost in thoughts and in search for words...
"Soon, some of them won't be children anymore. Soon... They will become braves of the Clan... If they survive the ritual."
Then, a voice called out to Bruce, breaking the silence and the chain of his thoughts.
"A story Chieftain! Or do you expect us to find wisdom in the cracklings of fire?"
Ivor's remark provoked the gathered children into bursts of laughter and Bruce joined them while thinking to himself "They're getting bolder with each day... They will need it."
But, to the children, he said: "The Moon of Kull will soon be upon us. So... Tonight, instead of a story I will answer your questions. If you have them."
When Bruce mentioned the Moon of Kull a wave of nervousness passed through the children. The joking and the whispering quieted down, replaced by silence and concerned looks. But then, one of the younger girls dared to speak: "Chieftain... When we complete the ritual and become warriors... Will we rise against the Technos?"
Bruce wanted to laugh out of mixed desperation and amusement but stopped himself short. Instead, he looked straight into Briana's eyes and answered. "That would mean the death of the Clan, little one."
This was not an answer they expected and the children released a collective sigh, some out of fear, some out of anger, others because they didn't understand. Bruce continued. "Even if all the Clans were called into a Horde we would stand no chance against the Technos... They possess weapons that are sorcery to us - this is how little we understand them. To rise against Technos would be folly."
Bruce let the silence overtake his audience, his words replaced by the crackling of the bonfire. He fed it more logs, thinking to himself "Hard truth is a bitter plant to chew on..."
Now it was the children’s turn to be lost in thoughts… But, seemingly undeterred, Briana continued her questioning. "Chieftain... What is the point of a warrior, then, if not to fight?"
The question lingered in the air for a moment or two as it got the attention of all of the children. Bruce looked at the flames reinvigorated by the fresh fuel as he gave his answer.
"To be a warrior... In the past of which the Elders speak, that meant seeking challenge in combat, exploring unknown lands, all for personal glory and that of the Clan. But... Times have changed. Today... To be a warrior means fighting for the survival of our people. Survival by any cost, except losing ourselves. Fighting to breathe, even while a Techno boot is stomping down on your chest..."
Cries of "But Chieftain, Chieftain!" erupted from almost all of the gathered children. Bruce threw more logs into the fire, thinking "This will be a long night..."
3 - GHOSTS TO THE CLAN
Slowly and absentmindedly, Bruce fed the newly kindled flames. Children were still gathering which bought him time to prepare and put his thoughts in order. Tonight... was different. The moon of Kull was upon them, shining through rain-laden clouds like a crescent blade. With it came the time for the rite. Soon, these children will cast away everything they know and will become braves... Or they will die out there, eaten by beasts, devoured by hunger, captured by Technos, driven to madness by the whisperings of the Forest.
Either way, Bruce will not see their faces here every night, their piercing eyes upon him, their minds open and ready to receive what little wisdom he has to share with them.
"Chieftain... All of us are here." one of the children spoke, pulling Bruce out of his broodings. He lifted his gaze from the dancing flames and observed the gathering. Almost a dozen strong - far less than his usual audience - they sat across the firepit, waiting for him to speak.
"The moon of Kull is here. With the coming of the dawn, your rites will begin. All of you have been preparing for this your whole lives... All of you have heard countless stories, both of great deeds and terrible deaths. So... I will not bore you with that again."
Letting the silence mark the importance of his words, Bruce directed another long, hard stare at them. One single thought dominated his mind - are they really ready?
"But, as the elders behest, I must repeat you the rules. When the dawn breaks, all of you will be cast out into the wilderness." Bruce continued. "Until one full moon has passed you cannot return and will thus be but ghosts to the Clan, belonging more to the dead than living.”
“But know this! Bruce continued. “Your first instinct will be to seek strength and safety in numbers. Do not do this! Ghosts cannot see other ghosts. Each of you must learn to stand and survive alone... alone! Before you can stand united with the Clan."
Bruce made another pause to let the true meaning of his words sink in. Once they leave the Clan land, they will have no-one else to count on, no one else to care or fight for them. They will be truly - alone.
But, as Bruce observed the faces of the gathered children trying to interpret their emotions, something else caught his eye. A shadow moved quickly but awkwardly behind the row of seated children. Quick as the wind, Bruce leaped over the fire and ran past the children, his eyes and hands hunting in the darkness.
He quickly found its prey and grabbed a handful of cloth pulling it out of the darkness and hiding. The boy Ivor dangled from Bruce's grip - and he quickly had to suppress his urge to harm the intruder. Instead, as the other children laughed, Bruce shouted. "Ivor! What in the rot are you doing here?"
The boy gulped down his fear before answering his Chieftain. "I... I... I want to join the rite!" Another wave of laughter erupted but that did not deter Ivor. Bruce released his grip and Ivor fell nimbly to the ground. "I am old enough! Older than you Chieftain, when you took the rite!"
There was steel in the boy's voice and laughter died out. Bruce looked at Ivor long and hard before he responded.
"Yes, I did take the rite at a young age. But. Times were different. You and I are different. I did not risk my life for glory - like you want to! I risked my life for the good of the Clan! My father... was ill, and it was a matter of days before he joined the ancestors. I had to become a brave or the Clan would be left without a Chieftain... headless and lost!"
Bruce kicked Ivor gently on the behind which caused another wave of laughter from the rest and a daring, angry stare from Ivor. "Begone now! Your time will come and think about what I've told you until then!"
As Ivor retreated towards the village covered with darkness, a soft rain started to fall... Ignoring it, Bruce resumed his seat, looked at the dozen strong who will take the rite and said: "Now... Where were we?"
4 - CHASING HOPE
The last embers of the bonfire were slowly waning and fading away into the bed of smoking ashes. Bruce nervously prodded the smoldering coals with his sword as though he wished to extinguish them and prolong the dark that suited his state of mind. But it was not meant to be. Behind him, the radiant ring of the Moon of Lugh was already plunging into the ever-restless waters of the ocean. With it, to the far west, beyond countless leagues of the Forest a new sun was rising, its blazing corona already bloodying the skies. No, the night was never meant to last... But the birth of a new day could not dispel the darkness that had taken hold inside of Bruce.
Only yesterday, the Moon of Kull has given way to a new cycle, marking the end of the rite of passage for those wanting to become Clan braves. Of the dozen strong that were exiled to survive in the wilderness only a few returned... Too few.
With renewed horror, Bruce remembered how Cullen came stumbling from the darkness towards the torch-fires, all skin and bone but somehow still finding the strength to carry his twin sister atop his shoulders. Rhona's limbs were dangling like useless ropes - a sure sign of a spine so broken that it could never heal. There wasn't a face that didn't betray fear or despair or even anger among the search party led by Bruce. But... He had to do his duty. So, he stepped in front of them and forbade Rhona to return. Rules set by the ancestors were clear - you must come back to the Clan on your own. Whole, not broken...
Cullen's face will forever be etched in Bruce's mind... That poisonous mixture of disbelief, sorrow and deep anger. He almost spat at Bruce's feet as he turned back and ventured into the night, clearly making his choice to stay with his twin, rather than to be embraced by the Clan as a warrior.
"She will not last long... and neither will he." thought Bruce as he angrily poked another ember which fell apart and joined the pool of ash. All of this - Cullen's and Rhona's fate, others who perished in the wilderness and those few who returned - had placed Bruce in this state of mind he couldn't seem to pull himself out of. He felt the weight of traditions, of rites, bearing down on his shoulder and pulling him down, down…
Slowly, Bruce got up, letting his sword fall to the ground. He walked to the edge of the cliff and looked across the tumbling waves to a spot his eyes couldn’t reach. The breeze of salt and water woke him up from another sleepless night and started clearing his thoughts...
"Are the Clans fated to be slaves forever? Are we to repeat this cycle of violence over and over again, until we're nothing better than raging beasts? Is there truly a reason for all that we are doing... To strengthen the Clan, prepare our people for the salvation that will - that must - come. Is the Land Where the Sun Sets just a tale that the ancestors told to make our lives... bearable, livable... Or is it truly real? A land free of strife, free of shackles, free of hunger! Where the Clans will truly know peace..."
“Or… Is it just one more story that I’ve told myself tonight, wishing it would justify what I had to do?”
Bruce lowered his head and started whispering the names of the children that died. A single tear trickled down his face, clearing soot and dirt in its wake. When he was done, he turned back to the village, almost ready to face another day.